First Look: 2012 BMW Concept M5

We knew it was coming, and we've waited with bated breath for the 2012 BMW M5. With the Concept M5 set to make its public debut at the Shanghai auto show later this month, we have a clear look at BMW's next performance sedan.

The heart of any BMW M5 is its powerful engine, and the soul is its rear-wheel drive. While BMW has yet to release any output figures, the engine should at least match the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the X5M and X6M that produces 555 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. BMW says the new blown eight-cylinder will have a higher output than the 500-hp, naturally aspirated, 5.0-liter V-10 that we enjoyed in the 2010 M5. To increase efficiency 25 percent over the V-10, which was rated at a mere 11/17 mpg, the 2012 model will use an automatic start-stop function in combination with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to help save fuel. Drivers less interested in fuel economy will be happy to know BMW still uses M Drivelogic to tailor the DCT's performance to an individual driver's taste.

While the powerplant may attract a lot of attention, those in the know realize BMW's suspension is what makes taking an M to the track or a favorite back road so rewarding. Riding lower than a typical 5 Series, the M5's suspension tuning will take advantage of decades of racing knowledge and countless development hours spent lapping the Nuerburgring. For 2012, the M5 uses an Active M differential to split power between the rear wheels, which improves handling by allowing the outer wheel to spin faster in a turn. Putting the power to the pavement are lightweight 20-inch, five-spoke, forged alloy wheels wrapped in 265/35 ZR20 Michelin tires. BMW assures us the M5 has large enough brakes to lap the 'Ring right from the showroom.

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BMW's experiment with higher cylinder counts is over: the next-generation M3 clearly will go to a turbocharged inline six from its current V-8, and the M5 drops back from its overkill V-10 to a twin-turbo V-8. What remains to be seen in the case of the M5 is whether it will be more driver-friendly than the current car, which is saddled with too many driver controls to maximize the performance. In any case, this concept sure has a great set of wheels!Joe DeMatio, Automobile Magazine

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